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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Thu 26th Feb 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Greene King Leisure Tracker – 18 to 24-year-olds most optimistic about 2015 leisure spend: The Greene King Leisure Spend Tracker has revealed that 18 to 24-year-olds are the most optimistic about their spending prospects in 2015. The latest report, which looked at how Britons expected their leisure behaviour to change in 2015, showed 30% of 18 to 24-year-olds plan to increase the amount they spend on eating out, with a similar increase expected for drinking outside of the home. In contrast, a quarter of households with children expect to reduce spend on these two activities, considerably more than those who expect to increase it. When it comes to leisure spend in January, 18 to 24-year-olds also led the march, with a strong increase in eating out, up 13% compared to the same month last year. Fiona Gunn, Greene King’s marketing director, said: “Britain’s youth have had a tough time during the credit crunch, but this month’s leisure tracker suggests the worst is now behind them. Our survey found that 18 to 24-year-olds are willing to spend more on eating out, drinking out and big-ticket items this year than in 2014. This is a sign that Britain’s youth may now be more confident about their job security, wages and better prospects in 2015 and consequently expect to have more spare cash to spend on having a good time.” The report also found that the nation lacks an appetite for trying new foods and drinks, as just one in 20 adults expects to try new alcoholic drinks this year. The figure for trying new foods rises to a modest one in seven, or 16%. Gunn said: “When it comes to trying new alcoholic drinks, just 5% plan to be more adventurous and, with less than a fifth intending to drink less alcohol, it seems the ‘usual’ shouldn’t be too compromised this year. There is also a lacklustre taste for trying new foods, with a mere one in seven Britons planning to try something different. It seems, when it comes to eating and drinking, many of us are guilty of being stuck in our ways.” For January, the Greene King Leisure Spend Tracker reported a 4% decrease year-on-year on total leisure spend, to £183, and down 13% compared to December. Eating out once again showed growth, up 13% year-on-year, while spend on other leisure showed a sustained decline, down 19% compared to last year. Drinking out proved more resilient with just a 1% decrease on the year before. Gunn said: “Eating-out spend has continued to experience strong growth and the 13% rise this month could be, in part, a result of a fall in petrol prices and inflation reaching record lows, giving Britons more to spend on their favourite leisure activity. Drinking out was slightly down in January, but it was other leisure that found it tough, bringing down the total figure for the month.” The report has also revealed a regional split for January, as London and the South East reduced spend on leisure by 15%, while households elsewhere in Britain increased their spend by 3%. Gunn said: “Households in regions across Britain spent more on leisure in January than their London and the South East counterparts, particularly on eating out, where the increase in spend doubled. This change may suggest other regions are starting to benefit from the more positive economic outlook.”
 

Industry News:

Propel launches Social Media Masterclass: Propel has launches a Social Media Masterclass in partnership with Digital Blonde’s Karen Fewell. The Social Media Masterclass provides a comprehensive overview of how to make the best use of social media (CLICK HERE to see the programme). Tickets are £295 for ALMR members and £345 for non-members. Email adam.dickinson@propelinfo.com to book.
 
Propel to host panel at today’s Casual Dining Show: Propel Info's managing director, Paul Charity, is hosting a panel discussion at today’s Casual Dining Show. He will be talking to four leading multi-site pub operators about how they are diversifying: James Nye of Anglian Country Inns who is brewing and selling bagels; Yummy Pub Company co-founder Tim Foster, who is selling coffee and plenty of cocktails; Oliver Thain, of the gastropub operator Cambscuisine, who has opened a smoked food concept called Smokeworks; and Kevin Charity, of the coaching inn operator Bulldog Hotel Company, who has developed strong coffee and accommodation revenue streams.
 
Union Hanover points to East Village as London’s ‘next rising star’ as it submits hotel plan and eyes food and beverage operators: Union Hanover Securities has submitted a planning application for a £100m-plus two-hotel scheme at Stratford City, East Village. The Penny Brook development, designed by the New York-based Grzywinski and Pons Architects, consists of a 137-bed Adagio hotel and a 249-bed destination boutique hotel called the Penny Brook. The scheme includes a 530 sq m ground floor restaurant, a 110 sq m ground floor cafe, 1,270 sq m of conference space, a 276 sq m top floor restaurant and a 276 sq m top floor lounge. Union Hanover said it was in discussions with a number of food and beverage operators in line with its objective "to forge London's next hot spot". Eric Jafari, managing director of Union Hanover Securities, said: “It is apparent to anyone paying attention to trends that East Village is London's next rising star. It boasts excellent transport links, huge retail footfall, the millions of square feet of office space under development and museums and other visitor attractions to come. The only thing missing is a destination boutique hotel anchored by a collection of 'best of breed' food and beverage operators to serve both the local and tourist market. It is our aspiration for the Penny Brook to serve as the cultural quarter/social hub for East Village."
 
US research finds moderate coffee consumption has health benefits: New research on coffee drinking has concluded that moderate consumption has beneficial health effects. The report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, part of the American food watchdog, the USDA, surveyed the drink's impact on health as part of its five-yearly "Scientific Report". It concludes that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day has various benefits, potentially reducing the risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's and liver cancer. The committee advises caution on various fronts, pointing out that the addition of sugar might compromise any health benefits. The results are only indicated, not proven, at this stage. It also points out that caffeinated energy drinks should not be presumed to have the positive qualities identified in coffee.
 
New York to boost servers' wages by 50%: Restaurant serving staff in New York will see their minimum wage rise from $5 to $7.50 (£4.85) an hour before tips from the end of this year, after the state’s acting labour commissioner approved the increase. In New York City, the minimum rate for staff who earn tips will rise to $8.50 an hour if the city gets permission to raise its minimum wage above the state's rate. The state allows businesses to use tips to meet or pass the minimum wage, which is due to rise to $9 an hour at the end of the year. The rise was immediately attacked by the New York City Hospitality Alliance, which said: “This drastic 50% increase in labour cost is sure to have a significant impact on the economic viability of many restaurants and force the restaurant industry to consider various new operational and compensation models for tipped employees.” New York has an estimated 133,550 restaurant workers on the minimum wage who receive tips. The median income of New York serving staff is about $19,100. Last week the supermarket chain Walmart said it would raise wages to $9 an hour in April, and then $10 an hour in a year, raising speculation that McDonald’s and other large restaurant companies would be under pressure to follow suit.

KFC unveils first edible coffee cup: KFC has unveiled the UK’s first edible coffee cup. The ‘Scoffee Cup’ is made from biscuit, wrapped in sugar paper and lined with a layer of white chocolate. It keeps the coffee hot and the cup crispy. As the white chocolate layer melts, the biscuit slowly softens, melting in the mouth. The cups were created in partnership with food scientists The Robin Collective and are infused with different scents. A spokesperson for The Robin Collective said: “Not only do the edible cups taste amazing, but they smell delicious too. We’ve infused different cups with a variety of ambient aromas including coconut sun cream, freshly cut grass and wild flowers. These scents were used in our recipes as they have a natural ability to evoke the positive memories we associate with warm weather, sunshine and summer holidays. Things that make everyone smile.” The Scoffee cups have been invented to mark the launch of KFC’s Seattle’s Best Coffee across its UK branches. The coffee is made from Fairtrade Arabica beans. The cups are currently still under development but should in stores by the summer.
 

Company News:

Ernst & Young – total of 38 Orchid pubs in administration sold: Ernst & Young, which is administrator to the Orchid pubs that were not acquired by Mitchells & Butlers last June, has reported that 38 sites have been sold to nine separate buyers. Thee purchaser have included a mixture of trade purchasers, alternative use, landlords and sole traders. A total of £3,584,000 has been realised, securing 594 jobs. Ten more sites are at advanced stage of negotiation. So far, Ernst & Young has incurred time costs of £2,938,000 working on the administration.
 
Novus top performers head to Las Vegas: The premium bar and restaurant operator Novus Leisure, led by Toby Smith, is taking its 15 top-performing managers, general managers and sales mangers over the Christmas period to Las Vegas today to reward them for exceptional performance. The group, which includes Smith, will be visiting the two highest-turnover nightclubs in the United States, XS and Hakkasan, as part of the four-day trip. It is the first time Novus has run a rewards trip and is an initiative introduced by Smith since his arrival at Novus in October last year.
 
Celebrity chef to open first pub with novel 'maturing meat' fridge: The celebrity chef Colin McGurran, who has appeared on Great British Menu and operates the Winteringham Fields restaurant in Lincolnshire, will open his first pub, the Hope and Anchor pub in nearby South Ferriby, on Sunday 22 March. The main focus of the menu will be “British favourites and grill", with McGurran having invested in a state-of-the art MaturMeat fridge from Italy, supposedly the first in the UK, which will hold cuts of meat as they age from 20 to 40 days. McGurran bought the pub after it was destroyed by floodwater in the December 2013 tidal surge. The head chef is Peter Garlick. McGurran said: “It is over budget, but we expected that. You normally anticipate 10% and it is bang on that. We are about £50,000 over budget. The opening Sunday we are already fully booked, which is great. In the first weekend of putting the website up we had 600 people e-mail us. That is huge. I want as many locals to use it as possible. I want them to see it as their local. I want to set an example. I've got a reputation to maintain at Winteringham Fields and I'm laying that on the line with this new venture. Peter has been spending so much time with me on menu development. He is even going to do two days at a top steakhouse in London so he knows how to look after the meat chamber."

Former head chef to Prince Charles transforms Duchy Arms with royal produce: The former head chef to the Prince of Wales has taken over the Duchy Arms in Kennington, South London, a pub with strong Royal connections, as it forms part of the Prince's Duchy of Cornwall estate, and turned it into a gastro-destination using produce sourced from the Prince's own farm. Visen Anenden, who worked as one of the top chefs to Prince Charles for nine years, has agreed a long-term lease at the Enterprise Inns pub and, along with a private business partner, invested £180,000 in transforming what was a run-down community pub into a destination eatery for local residents and businesses. The pub, on a residential street in Kennington Cross, has been given a new kitchen and cellar and a revamped interior, a new-look bistro and restaurant area with 65 covers and a smart garden and patio area. In keeping with the royal links, all beef, lamb and pork is supplied from Highgrove Home Farm in Gloucestershire, an organic farm operated by the Duchy of Cornwall. Sample dishes include buttermilk fried chicken wings with Chimichurri sauce; Home Farm at Highgrove air-dried ham and fennel salami with rye bread; and whole Cornish lemon sole with chicory, salsify and hazelnut salad.

Imbiba opens first Ruth and Robinson site: The investment fund Imbiba has opened its first site, Fourteenth Colonie, run by its new investment, Ruth and Robinson. The venue has replaced Giant Robot on Clerkenwell Road in North London. Paul Garner, managing director of Ruth and Robinson, told Hot Dinners: “It's inspired by our friends in Brooklyn and the fact that there were 13 colonies set up in the US [sic] between 1607 and 1733 on the East Coast. The name plays on the fact that the Europeans went to colonise the states. Now it's time for us to share the amazing inspiration we have found there and bring it back. We have a plan to open eight sites over the next eight years across London so the name 'The Fourteenth Colonie' was very appropriate. The Fourteenth Colonie brings you a touch of authentic Brooklyn to EC1. Working in partnership with the fantastic team at Colonie NYC, we will deliver something for everyone, indulgent (and healthy) brunch dishes, craft beer from the US and London, perfectly executed cocktails, fine wines and much more in a space that feels light and airy during daylight and dark and moody once it get dark – just like Brooklyn.”
 
Lasan to open lobster and beer bar in Birmingham under 'Nosh and Quaff' name: The Birmingham restaurant group Lasan is to open a new bar and restaurant at 130 Colmore Row, in the heart of the city's business district, to be called Nosh and Quaff, with a focus on lobsters and beer. Owners Aktar Islam and Jabbar Khan say they plan to open Nosh and Quaff in May after a £1m transformation of the landmark Grade II-listed building which was acquired by a Chinese consortium a year ago. Khan told the Birmingham Post: "It's a simple concept that I think the food lovers of our city will greatly appreciate. This is a landmark building and a really exciting venue but simplicity will be at the heart of it." Nosh and Quaff, on the corner of Colmore Row and Waterloo Street, will have capacity for 200 drinkers and diners, with a focus on food downstairs and drinks upstairs. Khan said further details about the new menu will be released before the launch, but "our guys are finalising the list of beers as we speak. We'll have an amazing selection. I think our offering will have a great appeal for a huge demographic and we are really excited. We can't open soon enough." Lasan Group already owns the award-winning Lasan in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, the Argentinean restaurant Fiesta del Asado on the Hagley Road in the city and the Indian street food café Raja Monkey in Stratford Road.
 
Bespoke Inns opens pub with micro-brewery: Bespoke Inns, the multi-site operator led by former Marston’s executive Alan Shepherd, has re-opened the Boot Inn in Repton, Derbyshire with a micro-brewery and nine boutique bedrooms. Others Bespoke pubs include the Dragon in Willington, Derbyshire and the Harpur’s of Melbourne, in Melbourne, Derby. Co-owner Heidi Taylor said: “The sales on the beer have just been incredible. Our beers are outselling all the other mainstream beers, which is beyond our wildest dreams. It’s a lovely area to come to. If people are coming for the weekend, they can expect a high standard of room to stop in and fantastic food. They can have a tour around the micro brewery and we’ve got a great wine and spirit offering. And the area itself is just fantastic for walks. This hasn’t been a successful pub for many years. We came to have a look around and the only thing I could resemble it to was a squat. We had to do extensive work on it to get it into what it is today.”

Akbar's opens thirteenth site: The Indian restaurant group Akbar's has opened a 180-cover site in Sheffield, its thirteenth site. The new opening by the Bradford-headquartered business is based at the 6,000 sq ft, two-storey site of the former Antibo Italian restaurant in the West One development at 10, The Plaza, Fitzwilliam Street. Akbar's managing director, Shabir Hussain said: "We acquired the site after the resounding success of our branch six miles away in Meadowbank Road, Rotherham, expanding to Sheffield in order to accommodate inner city workers and residents." Founded in 1995, Akbar's now has 13 sites, including restaurants in Bradford, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and York, in addition to its South Yorkshire outlets. Akbar's intends that the Sheffield site's launch will be followed by a string of other new restaurants, down the M1 to London.

Simon French issues buy note on Whitbread shares: The Cenkos leisure analyst Simon French has issued a 'Buy' note on Whitbread shares with a price target of 5105p after yesterday’s trading update. He said: "Whitbread has reported better than expected trading with 5.8% like-for-like sales growth for the 11 weeks to 12 February, compared to our forecast of circa 5%; total sales increased 14.3%. By division, Premier Inn LFL sales increased 8.6% compared to consensus of 6.6%, with revpar up 8.9% compared to consensus of 6.5%. Restaurants: LFL sales increased 0.6% compared to consensus of 1.5%, and Costa LFL sales increased 6.9% compared to consensus of 4.8%. The group comments that FY results should be towards the top end of current expectations. Our £486m PBT forecast is modestly ahead of consensus of £470m and we expect consensus to trend towards the higher end of the range of £437m to 496m. The stock trades on a CY 2015E P/E of 22.0x and an adjusted EV/ebitdar of 11.9x, a discount to its peers. Given the c13% CAGR in EPS over FY 2015-18E we think the stock is attractively valued. Buy."

Shoryu Ramen to launch fourth site: The Shoryu Ramen Restaurant Group, which specialises in authentic Kyushu cuisine, from the southernmost of Japan's main islands, is to launch its fourth restaurant in the Broadgate Circle Development the City of London, close to Liverpool Street Station, in April. Shoryu Ramen, which was launched in 2012 and is owned by the chief executive of the Japan Centre, Tak Tokumine, already has three sites in central London, in Regent Street, Soho and Kingly Court, as well as Shoryu Go, a dedicated tonkotsu ramen take-out bar on Air Street in Soho. Tokumine said: “UK noodle culture has really become more sophisticated in recent years. As the British market has become more accustomed to noodles, we're able to introduce very specific dishes, such as Hakata tonkotsu ramen, for those looking for the real deal. I want to make sure everyone can experience real flavours, real dishes on their doorstep. It was also important for me to create restaurants with authenticity, which is why many of the key staff are family members and are originally from Japan”

Prezzo and PizzaExpress join Dalton Park in Durham: Prezzo and PizzaExpress have been announced as new tenants at the Dalton Park shopping centre in Murton, County Durham as part of the centre's £45m expansion. They will join a drive-through KFC and a Frankie and Benny’s diner, which were confirmed last year as tenants. The developer, Peveril Securities, said work on the expansion site, adjacent to a shopping outlet built on a former coalpit, will begin in May and will take a year. The phase two development will also include a Morrisons supermarket, a petrol station, a hotel, a pub and a seven-screen Cineworld cinema. It was given planning approval by Durham County Council back in June 2011. A spokesman for Peveril Securities, explaining the delay in starting, said: “This has been a complex development due to the number of organisations and brands involved, each with individual requirements, which has contributed to the later than conceived start date."

Paul to open second regional site, one of five in 2015: The French artisan bakery and patisserie Paul will open its 32nd shop in the UK in Newbury, Berkshire as part of an overall brand roll-out that will see five more openings in 2015. The 182 sq metre site in the Parkway Shopping Centre is the group’s second regional opening outside London, after the launch of its Oxford bakery in December, and will create 12 new jobs when it opens next month. Chief executive Jean-Michel Orieux said: “This is a very exciting time for Paul and we hope that our arrival in Newbury will be a great addition to the busy shopping centre which welcomes thousands of visitors each year. We look forward to welcoming locals and tourists alike to enjoy our exclusive range of French classics, traditional, hand-crafted bakery and fine patisserie products.”

Gresham Collective partners to relocate The Dolls House:
The London-based multiple operator Gresham Collective, led by Will Clayton, has teamed up with Adam Towner and Katy Gray Rosewarne to bring the Dolls House concept to Gresham's House of Wolf site in Upper Street, Islington. Clayton said: “When we took on the site six months ago we knew there was some work to do. The previous owners had allowed the operation to become tired and it needed a real injection of life. Trading had met expectations, but we always wanted to turn the site away from its dark interior and clubby image to more of an all day, female-friendly, food-led trading. I and operations director Gregory Barry explored numerous options and are pleased to announce we have partnered with Adam and Katy, who, up until January, traded The Dolls House from their Hoxton Square site. The Dolls House had a forced closure due to the landlord executing a break clause to develop the site. The immediate benefits to joining with them were obvious. Adam and Katy bring their interior design skills and branding to a fantastic location. Furthermore, the arrangement has allowed us to retain some great people to push the brand forward." The Dolls House has a public bar in the downstairs parlour, a members’ ballroom in the upstairs attic and two private hire rooms. It will be open until 4am and host live jazz and swing on Thursdays and Sundays, with resident DJs playing on Fridays and Saturdays. Also joining the Gresham team is Morten Jensen, a senior partner at the ticketing firm Billetto.

Cote signs to Leamington's expanding food quarter: Cote Brasserie has agreed to take a unit currently occupied by the clothing store Austin Reed at the Regent Court shopping centre in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, joining chains including Nando's, Turtle Bay and Las Iguanas. However, the chain has hit problems in its wish to serve food to outdoor tables at the site until 9.30pm. A local councillor, Jerry Weber has raised concerns on behalf of residents who live in the apartments at Regent Court about late night noise coming from the food quarter and announced he will be objecting to Cote’s application for permission to serve food late outside. He told the Leamington Spa Courier: “Overall, residents have accepted that Regent Court will now be a food quarter, but they want a good balance of quality restaurants, as opposed to rowdy bars.” More than 150 jobs have also been created since the owner of Regents Court, NewRiver Retail, was granted permission to transform the area from mainly retail into a new restaurant quarter in February 2014. Bill Wareing, of the Leamington-based commercial property agent Wareing & Company, said: “It is a real coup for Regent Court to have attracted another major restaurant brand, which will only help to strengthen Leamington’s overall food offering. It totally vindicates New River’s approach of developing Regent Court as a food and restaurant quarter and we have very positive reports on how the existing units are trading.” Regent Court is celebrating a big rise in activity, attracting 1.9 million visitors during 2014, a 22% increase compared to the previous year.

Starbucks in the US reinforces links with the military: A Starbucks store in San Diego, California has received a special designation as the company’s first Military Family Store, as the coffee giant reinforces is links with the military. As part of Starbucks' commitment to hire at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018, the company created two "community stores". One is near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and the other is by Joint Base San Antonio in Texas. A portion of each purchase in those Starbucks stores benefits programmes that support veterans. Tim Bomke, Starbucks' manager for military and veterans affairs, and a US Army veteran himself, said: “When we travelled to military communities across the country, we heard from our partners and customers that they want more of these places where we can connect in a personal way. It was clear that we had to do more and grow this programme beyond the two military community stores." Starbucks says it has designed a new, more scalable Military Family Store programme to link some of its stores with non-profit organisations that connect veterans with rewarding civilian jobs and with valuable community service work.

Brains signs three-year deal for feedback system:
The Cardiff-based brewer and retailer Brains has signed up to an initial three-year period with the insights system Feed It Back, giving it specific feedback for each of its 120 managed venues on aspects of the business including service, food and drink. At the same time, several Brains sites are upgrading their tills, which will allow them to fully link with Feed It Back’s personalised survey system. After the epos link is complete, customers at certain Brains venues will receive a code on their receipt that will direct them to a personalised survey. Instantly, Feed It Back will know what they ordered, who served them, how much they spent and other pieces of data on their visit, and it will build a personalised survey accordingly. This will make surveys considerably quicker for customers to complete, Feed It Back said, and allow Brains to secure more comprehensive analysis and insights. The system also allows customers to highlight staff that provided excellent service via photos of the pub’s team. Since implementing Feed It Back, Brains has seen a 20-fold increase in feedback volume, with 94% of surveys completed before the guest leaves the site. Almost two in five customers have selected a staff member’s photo for praise, while 6% have subscribed to the venue’s newsletter and database. Bruce Newman, group head of marketing at Brains, said: “We value our guests’ opinions and Feed it Back has given the business a robust, easy to use method of capturing guest insight. The initial phase of the project has landed well and we aim to enhance our marketing capability in the coming months by taking advantage of Feed It Back’s EPOS connection.”

Coaching inn owners buy Lake District hotel: Steve and Karen Edmondson, owners of the Brown Horse Inn at Winster, near Bowness on Windermere, have acquired the nearby Lyth Valley Hotel near Kendal off an asking price of £599,500. The Edmondsons plan a major refurbishment of the Lyth Valley Hotel which has an 80-seat restaurant and six letting bedrooms and terrace with views over Lyth Valley. The business was sold by Colliers International, acting for the owner, George Doodson, who acquired the business in 1974 and is now retiring. In the year ended March 31 2013, the hotel generated a turnover of £154,630. Steve Edmondson said: “We’re extremely happy about our latest purchase and plan a major refurbishment to create a fresh and exciting place to eat drink and stay. All going well, we hope to be ready to re-open the doors in the next six months.”

Wetherspoon to hold British hops-only beer festival next month: JD Wetherspoon pubs across the UK will be offering ten real ales from across the world alongside a selection of beers from across the UK during a 17-day festival  next month, Friday March 13 to Sunday March 29 inclusive. Each of the beers has been brewed using only British-grown hop varieties; a total of 24 different hop varieties are being featured amongst the festival beers, including established varieties such as Fuggles and Goldings and newer varieties such as Boadicea and Jester. The overseas beers on offer have been sourced from brewers in Brazil, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, the United State, Spain, Ireland and Australia. Each of the overseas brewers have brewed their individual beer at a UK brewery. The overseas beers are; Spider Bite from the Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Virginia, Shipwreck IPA from the Lighthouse Brewing Company, Canada, Wee Heavy from Bodebrown Brewery, Brazil, Durban Pale Ale from the Shongweni Brewery, South Africa, Hightail Ale from Mountain Goat Beer, Australia, California Breakfast Ale from Golden Road Brewing, Los Angeles,, O’Dwyer’s Irish Stout from the Dungarvan Brewing Company, Ireland, JCIPA from Townshend Brewery, New Zealand, English IPA from Cerveceria Fort, Spain and ESA from Barley Brown’s Beer, Oregon. The festival will feature seasonal and unusual beers, with many brewed for the first time, exclusively for the festival. Customers will be able to sample any three of the real ales in special third-of-a-pint glasses for the price of a pint. Wetherspoon’s beer festival organiser, Gary Holmes, said: “The festival is the perfect opportunity to showcase the wonderful range of British-grown hop varieties and support British hop farmers. It will give people the opportunity to enjoy a superb selection of UK and international beers, many of which have not been served in the pub before.”
 
Greene King gets green light for Rotherham Hungry Horse: Greene King has been given planning approval by Rotherham Council to build a Hungry Horse pub-restaurant at St Paul’s Developments’ Phoenix Riverside scheme in Rotherham. The company purchased 1.5 acres of land with prime frontage on to Sheffield Road, Templeborough from St Paul’s Developments at its six acre, Phoenix Riverside business park, which is close to Rotherham town centre and Junction 34 of the M1. Work has now started on site with the opening of the new pub set for summer 2015. Marc McGuigan, business unit director for Hungry Horse, said: “It is always exciting when we build a new pub, and we are particularly looking forward to being an integral part of this new development, an ideal location for our family-friendly pub." The new Hungry Horse will create 60 jobs.
 
Owl Bar pop-up to open in London: A pop-up Owl Bar is to open in Soho, Central London next month. Annie the Owl, which will open in a secret location in Soho from 19 to 25 March, invites guests to meet the owls while enjoying a cocktail or two. Tickets will cost £20 and be sold via a ballot, with profits going to the Barn Owl Centre charity. The concept is based on Tokyo's well-established owl cafes. London’s version will be open night hours only from 8pm to 2am in respect of the nocturnal nature of the owls. All of the owls have been trained to be around the public and will be accompanied by a professional falcon trainer. Sam Sheiky, the curator for the event, told the London Evening Standard: “There will be a minimum of four to five owls and professional falcon trainers, running for two-hour slots. It is for a good cause and Londoners will have fun. We have spent lots of time taking care of animal welfare and making sure the owls will be comfortable.” The tickets include two cocktails.
 
Northumbrian restaurant named as one of world's quirkiest: The Treehouse Restaurant in Alnwick, Northumbria has been named by TripAdvisor as one of the ten quirkiest restaurants in the world, the only venue from the UK on the list. The restaurant, at Alnwick Castle, home of the Duke of Northumberland, which opened in 2005, claims to be, at 6,000 sq ft, one of the world's largest wooden treehouses. It has a log fire in the centre of the room, trees growing through the floor, and a "locally inspired" menu. The others on the "most quirky" list were two venues in Paris, a cave restaurant in Italy, a rollercaster-themed restaurant in Germany, three places in the United States, a rock in Zanzibar and an underwater eatery in the Maldives.

Shaker Group prepares for Gas Street Social opening by hiring key staff: Shaker Group has hired Scott Walker as general manager and Florian Mainzger as head chef, ahead of its Gas Street Social opening at the Mailbox in Birmingham next month. Mainzger has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and hotels around the world, including Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Dubai and the UK. He also spent time working as chef de cuisine at Hyatt Regency Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Gas Street Social is an upmarket restaurant and cocktail bar that claims to be "inspired by the cultural and industrial context of Birmingham’s rich history". The menu is described as "simple, seasonal and shareable modern European cuisine", and the drinks menu consists of regional and international craft beers, fine wines and cocktails created by the Shaker Group team. Adam Freeth, Shaker Group's managing director, said: “Gas Street Social will be all about incredible food and cocktails with top-class service and I’ve no doubt that with Scott at the helm overseeing the operations and Florian using his Michelin-starred experience to create exciting dishes, the restaurant will be a huge success.”

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